apparently its almost impossible to know. after going through the emotions of feeling guilty that we were clueless, kerrie and i have been reading more about appendicitis in young children. its just almost impossible to know. in fact, its one one of the most misdiagnosed sicknesses by doctors. most children under 6 who experience a ruptured appendix have already been treated and sent home by a health professional.
as was the case with us. here's our story...
last weekend, our 4 year old luciana was experiencing stomach pain. we live in guatemala: parasites, amoebas, intestinal infections, and diarrhea is simply a part of normal life!
so we did the typical "suck it up" for a couple days... but it didn't go away. by tuesday we took her to our friend dr. norma. because luci had a UTI back in february, dr. norma assumed it was the same thing. so while we waited for the stool sample results to come back, we started her on medicine.
wednesday, she was back to her old self. she had a friend over, and was running around crazy all day. she even had soccer practice that night.
but thursday she woke up in terrible pain. for a couple of hours straight, she cried and complained of serious pain in her stomach. it was different... we could tell. honestly, i could just see it in her face. something else was wrong.
there we were... driving down the road, not sure where to even go. even though we've lived in guatemala 9 years, and have plenty of doctor friends, we weren't sure where to go in this situation. we decided to try a new hospital in a shopping center that we go to occasionally. a good friend of ours had had a good experience there, and it seemed nice... so thats where we decided to go.
by the time we got there luciana had taken a turn for the worse. she was on fire (104+). she had the chills. she was in and out of consciousness, was breathing super fast, and her heart rate seemed to be racing.
ever have one of those moments where you are "being strong" out of necessity, then you see someone you love and you just lose it? thats what happened next - when during all the commotion, our friends mark and gina walked into the hospital. kerrie just started crying. its so good to have people with you during times like this...
after blood tests, x-rays, and an ultrasound, we were finally told that luci's appendix had burst some time earlier. the ultrasound showed the liquids from the intestinal contents had spread through her entire stomach, and immediate operation was necessary. (later on we read more about what happens when an appendix bursts, and realized just how dangerous of a situation luci was in.)
it seems foggy thinking back on it, but i remember when the 2 surgeons approached me to say they were leaving to prepare for the surgery, i asked them if they were christians. (not that they had to be christians in order for me to let them do the surgery. i would have trusted whoever God provided!) it was just simply what came out of my mouth at the time. they looked awkwardly at each other, and i asked again "do you guys know jesus? cause you are about to go inside my daughter's stomach and i need to know that you trust jesus."
they graciously said something like "yes, of course we do." and they were off to prepare for surgery...
then the anesthesiologist came in to explain what was next. he couldn't even get luci to respond. she was basically unconscious. he was so kind and sincere in the way he expressed his concerns. he quickly told us the dangers in giving a child pain medication when their stomach hurts. he said it masks the pain, and tricks the child into thinking they are fine. thats why luci seemed to be fine on wednesday...
|just before surgery. we realized later it looks like she is praying!|
they only let me get to a certain point, and i had about 2 minutes alone with luci before they took her off. i explained what was going on, and prayed with her - asking God to make her the bravest girl in the world. she then asked me if i'd be there with her during the surgery. i told her "no baby, but God will be there with you, and he sent this nice men to help you." she took a big "try not to cry breath" and said "ok." i kissed her, and a nurse wheeled her off.
before they entered the operating room, i was able to pray with both the anesthesiologist as well as the surgeon. my heart was racing and my prayers were quick, but i asked God to guide their hands and minds and thanked Him for putting these good men in our life for this exact moment.
then the door closed. silence. again, i can't even begin to say how wonderful it is to share these moments with friends. we prayed, read scripture, and i think even found a way to laugh at one point. the holy spirit was with us as we waited. i could feel His presence!
i had texted some people asking to spread the word and to please pray with us. we could feel those prayers as well. we were nervous, but there was calm and peace as we waited.
i didn't say i was calm... i was pacing the floor, praying and singing! for the last half hour of the surgery, i waited outside the operating room doors and read psalm 91 over and over in different versions of both spanish and english. one version had verses 1-4 written like this:
the word of God is so perfect. i had only gone to psalm 91 because we had read it that very morning in our daily devotion with the boys in our house. coincidence? of course not. these are the precious and subtle joys of following Jesus.
finally luci was out of surgery. dr. salazar said it went well. he said her appendix was between 2-3 times larger than its original size. that, based on the size of the hole where it exploded, and the amount of poisonous intestinal fluid in her stomach, led him to think she only had between 4-6 hours to live.
dr. salazar said he believed they had cleaned all of the organs from the fluid that escaped, and he was hopeful that she would not have any complications. he did, however, warn me that complications are somewhat common and she would need to spend at least 3 days in the hospital to be closely monitored.
that night was one of the most difficult of my life. we could not control the pain. luci was miserable - screaming at the top of her lungs "my stomach!" all night long. just typing those words takes me back to the terrifying way that she was screaming it.
this went on all night. they upped her pain medication, even gave her an injection. it helped for about 10 minutes - then back to screaming. i walked around her bed for hours, praying and claiming the promises from psalm 91. kerrie tried to comfort her, praying and softly singing in her ear "this we know" by kristian stanfill, and "what a beautiful name" by hillsong.
a couple times during the night i googled stuff like "complications after appendix removal in kids". that was a mistake! my mind raced. there are so many things that can go wrong. i began fearing the worst. then God would bring me back, asking me... "who do you trust?"
i knew from what i was reading, and from what we have literally experienced with several people here in our village, that dying from a burst appendix is a very real possibility. at one point i actually fell to my knees and promised God that if it is was his will to take my daughter home to be with Him, i would love Him and follow Him just the same. but then i begged Him not to do it.
one of kerrie and my favorite memories looking back on it all (it actually brings us to tears thinking about) is during this time of miserable pain, luci would sing. we would put on her favorite song "what a beautiful name" (in the spanish version "hermoso nombre"). as it played in the background, luci would sing as loud as she could while she was crying. honestly it was one of the those powerful expressions of faith that just rocks you to the core. i wondered if she had learned that from our friend cesar - who sings out to God with all his heart, while suffering in pain, every single time we see him.
after an entire night of this (around 7 hours), she yelled that she needed to go to the bathroom. before we could even get the tray to the bed, she had started to go. she peed, and peed, and peed. when she finished, she sat up, smiled, and said "wow... that feels soooo good."
she looked up at us and smiled. she laid back down and started singing whatever song was playing on my phone. then she said, again, "ahhh... that feels good."
maybe a little hesitant to "celebrate prematurely" kerrie and i just waited. after a few minutes, luci sat back up, and asked to look at book. we finally lost it. its been a while since I've cried like that...
doc told us later that following the surgery, luci's internal organs just weren't working properly. her bladder was over-full with unbearable pressure, but her system couldn't do anything about it. he told us how much that hurts, and praised God with us that eventually her organs responded. we simply believe God answered our prayers (and so many of yours' who prayed with us). just like it says in psalm 91, He hid her from deadly diseases, and covered her with His protection...
luci has been recuperating ever since. she's a little sore from the 3 openings where the surgery was performed. but she hasn't taken any pain medication since leaving the hospital. (this seems crazy if you read about kids recovering from appendix surgery.) but doc said to take the pain medicine "as needed" and luci hasn't needed it so far.
late sunday morning, dr. salazar came by to check on luciana before releasing her from the hospital. as he was turning to walk out the door, luci yelled out "but i want to give you a hug!" because luci isn't normally one to do that kind of thing, i looked at kerrie and simultaneously our eyes filled up with tears.
|luci and dr. salazar|
just tonight as we were retelling the story to a friend, luci was off to the side listening. after a couple minutes, she came over to sit in my lap and whispered in my ear "God saved me papi, and he's with me right now." man, i just know with all my heart that God is going to do amazing things through this girl.
we live in a third world country. we don't have health insurance. but we have faith in a mighty God! part of luciana's testimony will always be that when she was 4 years old God saved her life in a guatemalan hospital after her appendix burst.
i pray God gives her a looooong life so she can use that story (and many more!) as a way to point as many people as possible to His love, faithfulness, and salvation.
|team of doctors and nurses who cared for luci for 4 days|
Thank you to all of you who prayed for our baby girl in our time of need. Your prayers, text messages, and emails gave us sweet encouragement. We love you!